~by Dakota Banks
I will admit, and I probably have before, that I'm a sucker for an eye-catching cover. Even better is when the cover actually reflects somehow the contents of the book, which is happily the case with Dakota Banks' debut novel Dark Time. Dark Time is the first book in the new series Mortal Path; I would primarily describe it as urban fantasy, although there is a heavy dose of suspense thrown in for good measure with an almost James Bond-esque attitude (albeit with a female heroine). I was offered a copy to review and although I don't regularly read this type of action-packed urban fantasy, the basic premise and choice of mythology intrigued me enough to request the book.
In 1692 Susannah Layhem was happily married and pregnant with her first child, but that is all destroyed when she is accused of being a witch and sentenced to be burned alive. As the flames begin to rise she is given a chance at life and revenge by the Sumerian demon Rabishu. If she agrees to do his bidding she will become a deadly assassin and one of the powerful Ageless. Three hundred years later, now going by the name of Maliha Crayne, she begins to question her decision and takes a closer look at her contract. If she can save as many lives as she has taken, her life will be her own again. If she fails, she will wholly belong to Rabishu and suffer his torments for eternity. And he's definitely not going to make it easy for her to succeed.
For someone who's supposed to be concerned with saving lives, Maliha doesn't really seem to be bothered by the massive amounts of collateral damage she causes or the sheer number of people she kills. She doesn't really seem to be in much of a hurry to earn her life back from Rabishu, either. This makes little or no sense because the longer she waits, the less likely she is to succeed. For most of the book, she's off investigating a murder case and I have no idea why since I'm pretty sure she can't save those who are already dead. Granted, most of this comes together in a more or less satisfying way by the end, but most of the book was spent being confused about everyone's motivations or apparent lack thereof. It was great to see the use of Sumerian mythology which isn't terribly common, but it did seem rather odd in conjunction with the Salem witchcraft trials. There were other small things, problems, and inconsistencies; most of which could probably be explained away somehow with a bit of a stretch. But one thing that continues to bug me: out of all of the lovers Maliha has had and currently has, not a single one found it odd or happened to notice a mystically animated carving across a large portion of her torso?
Overall, I think Dark Time frustrated me more than I really enjoyed it. There was so much going on that it felt like Banks was picking out bits and pieces of really cool stuff regardless of genre but wasn't quite able to pull it off and make the book cohesive. Elements and details often seemed dropped into the story more for the cool factor (and there are some really cool things going on) rather than really serving the plot. However, there is at least one thing that Banks does exceptionally well--her execution and description of fights and action sequences (of which there are plenty) are remarkably well done, engaging, easy to follow, and vivid. I probably won't be making a point to continue the series, but if I come across the next book, Sacrifice, at the library when I have some free time (unlikely though that is) I might give the series another shot; with a little more focus, Bank's could be a promising new author.